Frescobaldi: The Gorgona Wine Project

It’s not every day that a winemaker makes me cry, well maybe a few wines have moved me to tears. However during an intimate luncheon with winemaker, Lamberto Frescobaldi,  I shed some tears due to the afternoon being filled with inspiration, hope, and good wine. 

Frescobaldi was in New York to host the first-ever Gorgona retrospective tasting with vintages 2012-2016. Gorgona has been a prison island since 1863 that is comprised of inmates in the final part of their sentence.

In 2011 Frescobaldi received an email about a vineyard at a prison. They were looking for a someone to sponsor the vineyard and work with the inmates. While Frescobaldi’s wife tried to talk him out being involved, he decided to take a visit to Gorgona to see what was going on. It was then that he knew that he had to be involved.

Frescobaldi found out that he was the only one who has responded to the email. The universe always knows what she’s doing. It was all meant to be. The inmates get training for a world renowned winemaker and he gets to give back to society. It’s a win/win situation. The goal of the project is to give the inmates wine growing and wine skills to be able to find work once they are back in society. Studies show that only 23% of people end up back in jail if they have been given access to gain skills to be able work once they are released.

Some might not take wine produced at Gorgona seriously, because it’s made at a prison. However, Frescobaldi is a big deal in the wine world. He is a 30th generation winemaker that produces around 11 million bottles of wines between six Tuscan estates. There’s no way he could be involved and not produce wines with quality.

Those in attendance of the luncheon got to taste various vintages of the Gorgona white wine which is a blend of Vermentino and Ansonica. While it’s a small vineyard with some limitations, the inmates have produced some nice wines with the assistance of Frescobaldi’s agronomists and oenologists.

The first vintage of the wine was in 2013. It’s a perfectly good table wine. As we went through the rest of the vintages, it was easy to tell that the wine started having more depth. 2015 is known for being the best vintage, because the weather the cooperative beautifully.

Frescobaldi called on some of his friends to partner with him for the program. Simonetta Doni of Studio Doni & Associati designed the wine label, Agrotractors donated a tractor, Giorgio Pinchiorri  of Enoteca Pinchiorri promoted Gorgona’s culinary heritage, and Andrea Bocelli wrote the 2013 label. Prominent people have been behind the project since day one.

The wine project has become so popular among the inmates that they are requesting to be a part of the program. Several inmates have landed jobs with Frescobaldi when they were released, while others have found jobs with other wineries.

The Gorgona Project is such a success it would be amazing if other countries would implement the same prison reform.


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